This autism dad asks New Brunswickers with autism, or autistic children or family members or friends, professionals working with autistic children and adults or people who just plain care to register Liberal today and vote for Mike Murphy as the next leader of the New Brunswick Liberal Party. I do so because I believe registering with the Liberal Party and voting for Mike Murphy for leader offers the best hope for rebuilding NB's autism services system currently being dismantled by the Alward government.
Why am I asking you to register and vote for Mike Murphy? Because I believe he is the best hope for a better life for New Brunswick children and adults with autism disorders. In making this statement I am well aware that both of NB's "government forming parties" have initiated change for the betterment of autistic children and students although neither have made positive steps toward helping autistic adults. Positive changes for NB'ers autistic population started with Conservative Premier Bernard Lord and continued with Liberal Premier Shawn Graham. I have publicly thanked and acknowledged their contributions in the past and do so again. But that was then and since the Alward government came to power, as expected, and as I predicted, much of that progress is being rolled back.
Specifically the world class autism training provided by the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training program to early intervention workers and education aides working with autistic children has been discontinued. A theoretical in-house training plan has been developed which is a rehash of old plans submitted by Education department bureaucrats and rejected as lacking quality and integrity by the Autism Society New Brunswick. Specifically there are no meaningful criteria for admission to the "in house" training, no significant testing or course completion requirements. The in house training results will also be subject to challenge by the union representing aides and could become enmeshed in the grievance process. From the department's perspective though the "in house" system is cheap. That is why the department discontinued the UNB-CEL Autism program that provided quality and integrity for training autism aides and early intervention workers.
Education aides who already received UNB-CEL autism training and who have been working with autistic children are actually being replaced in some cases by aides with no autism training. Alternative learning arrangements outside the mainstream classroom to accommodate severely autistic children are also being eliminated under the Alward government. In particular, resource centres existing in some schools which provide an excellent service to severely autistic children and other children with serious challenges are targeted for elimination.
As with all previous governments no progress has been made towards a modern residential care system for NB adults with serious autism challenges. Such a proposal will not see the light of day in an Alward government which pats itself on the back for its inclusion practices while ignoring the plight of those with severe autism disorders living in psychiatric and general hospitals for lack of a modern autism residential care system as proposed by NB autism expert Paul McDonnell, Ph.D., psychology and clincial psychologist.
If future autism progress is to be made in NB it will not be made under an Alward government. The alternative, at this time is the Liberal Party. The NDP may become a factor some day and perhaps before the next provincial election but to date NB'ers have had only 2 choices in electing a government Conservative or Liberal. With the Liberal Leadership race on the choice of Liberal leader will have a huge impact on whether autism services have a chance of being restored.
There are nominally 3 candidates running for leadership of the Liberal Party. Of the three any discussion I have heard, with no offence intended toward Nick Duivenvoorden, indicates that the race is between Brian Gallant and Mike Murphy. I sat front row centre at the first public forum of the 3 Liberal candidates in Fredericton. I was very impressed by Nick Duivenvoorden's personal qualities, especially his great sense of humor but I didn't hear a lot of specifics on policy issues. Nor did I hear any specifics on policy issues from Brian Gallant. The only candidate who did provide detailed specifics was Mike Murhpy. That said: None of the three candidates provided any commentary at that session or since on "autism" issues.
Brian Gallant seems like an outstanding young man and a person with obviously unlimited potential in politics. But I do not see generally, and specifically with respect to autism, any reason to support him at this time. I know he has powerful supporters like Dominic LeBlanc who left a robocall voice mail message on my home phone but powerful supporters, an allegedly new approach to politics, and a background in corporate law do not provide me with any sense that Brian Gallant will have anything to offer to improve services for the 1 in 88 NB'ers with autism disorders.
Given that none of the candidates have provided an autism specific policy statement why would I endorse Mike Murphy, as I do, without reservation? One reason, but it is not the major reason, is that I have known Mike Murphy since day 1 of law school. I knew Mike as a friend than and after law school when we both worked at the same law firm in Moncton. I know with certainty that Mike Murphy has, throughout the time that I have known him, helped people as an individual and has done so without seeking credit or recognition for doing so.
I am asking specifically though that NB'ers with an autism interest register TODAY with the Liberal Party and support Mike Murphy and the major reason I am doing so is that I know, as an autism advocate over the past 12 years in NB that Mike Murphy stood with us back when NB's autism advocacy movement was going through a very active beginning phase. I know and I could say so under oath that Mike literally joined in our autism advocacy efforts. As one specific example he assisted us in advocating for better treatment and care of an autistic man who was living at Centracare in Saint John. More generally I have been able to engage Mike in discussion on autism issues and the importance of evidence based approaches to autism care at any time that I sought to do so. And let me assure you of one thing, Mike understands autism issues.
I am not trying to push anyone to act against their political leanings. I am not asking you to vote for Mike based solely on our personal friendship. Anyone who knows me, including Mike, knows that I would throw him under the bus in a heart beat if it would result in better autism services in NB.
I am simply explaining why I, as an autism dad and autism advocate, believe the best thing we can do in NB at this time to rebuild and improve services for autistic children and adults is to register Liberal and vote for Mike Murphy. If you agree please register online TODAY and vote for Mike. If you agree please encourage anyone you know with an autism interest to register Liberal TODAY and vote for Mike Murphy.
Harold L Doherty